This short trip was a two hour drive to Cincinnati to see what kind of fun we could find. We have been to Cincinnati many times before…Kegan’s dad and stepmother even live on the north side so this wasn’t unknown territory. We have been to King’s Island (a very good amusement park) a few times. (Planning to take Norah for the first time in April) and we have been to the Cincinnati Zoo last year when a friend from Florida visited the area. But we hadn’t really spent time downtown and we were able to find plenty to see and do for the weekend.
We grabbed Norah right after school and immediately hit the road headed to the Newport Aquarium.
The aquarium was a really good one- and almost completely empty by 5:30pm when we arrived. Normally this time of year they close at 5, so I guess we got lucky that they were open until 7pm, but it seems no one else seemed to know! Ha
Now, it was time to go a couple miles to pick up what I will refer to as Stupid Purchase #1 (because there were multiple this weekend haha)
One of my hobbies is checking Facebook Marketplace for things I just can’t live without. Especially while traveling. Well on the drive over, I changed my area to Covington, KY just to surf and see what people had for sale over there. One of the first things that popped up was this vertical planter that a lady had listed for $40. Looking at it, it was big and it looked like a self watering hydroponic setup…definitely something I had been searching for and looking for options. But $40 was just silly low…surely not. So I messaged and asked her questions, in chatting learned she was relocating to the US Virgin Islands- I just finished a contract for the hospital in the US Virgin Islands, so we discussed the area and in the end she told me I could pick it up after the aquarium.
We drove to Ft Mitchell to a pizza spot but it was jammed packed with an hour wait so-backup plan: when in Cincinnati, eat Skyline Chili!
Skyline was founded in Cincinnati in 1949 by a Greek immigrant, but the story of “Cincinnati chili” goes back 100 years to a couple Macedonian/Northern Greek brothers that took the typical coney dog topping chili, mixed it with a Mediterranean stew spiced with nutmeg, clove and cinnamon but instead of limiting to hotdogs, they added it to spaghetti…and the Germans in the city couldn’t get enough of it. Gold Star, Empress, Dixie Chili, Skyline… you have plenty of options in this city. And admittedly, I do crave Cheese Coneys when I haven’t had them in a while.
After skyline, we headed to The WEB- an arcade/mini golf/indoor go kart/Laser tag/VR combo spot. We only had a couple hours until they closed so it cost us a whole $10/person (plus arcade game tokens) for an unlimited band. Ha
We shut the place down trying to use our credits before 11pm and they shut the machines off at 10:50! Jerks 🙂 norah used her credits to pick out some little junk prizes and we headed to our hotel. Again, hotel was nothing special- a Holiday Inn downtown using points I had.
Saturday morning we got moving for a walk downtown to Wild Eggs again since Cincinnati had one, too. We’ll leave Wild Eggs to Louisville- the Cincy one wasn’t nearly as good, but it was still a good breakfast
After breakfast we explored some more blocks downtown and headed towards the waterfront
Down at the waterfront, there is a great monument to the Black Brigade of Cincinnati- the first black military unit in the civil war. When the Confederacy was closing in on Cincinnati, a group of black men offered to volunteer to help fortify the city against attack. They were ignored…but then the mayor decided they should go round up all the black men and forcibly make them work. When the top general learned this, he ordered all of the black men (around 400) be allowed to return home…but that if they chose to volunteer, to come back to report the next day. Over 750 black men showed up to volunteer. Eventually they were paid and even led by black officers. The cleared hundreds of acres of forest, rifle pits, forts and are credited with completing the fortifications that saved the city in an 1862 attack.
Lots of great deco architecture everywhere downtown
About this time I remembered that I booked our next item for an exact time. Whoops. We had 20 minutes to drive out to the Cincinnati Museum Complex, park and get inside to the OMNIMAX theater. We made it, 1 minute late, but before they started the show!
Union Terminal is an AMAZING art deco train station that opened in 1933 and was planned to hold 17,000 passengers a day and over 200 trains daily. It is the largest half-dome in the western hemisphere and just an awesome building.
Our OMNIMAX film was called Dinosaurs of Antarctica and it was super interesting to learn about how Antarctica was once a lush jungle setting housing tons of early dinosaur species prior to the T Rex Jurassic age.
Next we visited the City History Museum- which was a bit disappointing. There were a few stations talking about the history of the city but mostly it was just a wing dedicated to housing this giant train set that was a replica of the city from the 1920s
Next up was the Holocaust Museum which just opened in 2019. It was a really good museum but I didn’t take any pictures, I guess. Although not really the subject matter to photograph. I highly recommend it.
Next we visited the Rookwood Ice Cream Parlor. A shop completely covered in Rookwood pottery serving Graeter’s ice cream- a Cincinnati original since 1870, even declared by Oprah as the best ice cream she had ever tasted.
After chilling with some ice cream, we were offered a tour of the building by a guy who saw us just standing around staring at all of the details- he said it went to some areas not open to the public and lasted about an hour… but we only had two hours until closing and Norah hadn’t been to the Children’s museum yet… so she voted to skip the tour and we reluctantly agreed because we knew she really wanted to go play. Parenting requires sacrifices ha
Overall it was a small museum, mostly a big playground with some other interactive stations and crafts.
After all of those museums we needed a bit of a break. We headed back to the hotel for an hour and had a rest- I took a nap, Kegan listened to an audiobook and Norah surfed YouTube.
We took an Uber downtown since it was pretty cold to our reservations at Taste of Belgium- another Cincinnati local chain specializing in “taking American staples and Belgianizing them” . It’s Norah’s favorite because they have waffles ha
Kegan said, “you should try this coffee, it’s really good” so I did. And wow… it was like the best coffee I had ever had haha so I asked our waitress what brand of coffee they brew… she didn’t know. So on our way out I stopped at the bar area and asked the people there what they brewed. They pointed to a House Blend black bag with a Taste of Belgium label and told me that they did sell it. But when I asked if that’s what they use in the espresso machine- no that’s this Espresso Roast… also in a big 5 lb bag with a Taste of Belgium label. I asked if they sold that and they said they’d have to go ask the manager. Manager came out and was like …I mean, I can sell you that bag… but it will be expensive and it’s like 5 lbs… yeah. That’s fine, I’ll take it haha
Our last item for Saturday night was at The Escape Game right next door. This was the last room we had never done that they had… Gold Rush. It was a fun one! Fairly easy on the difficulty level I think because we escaped in about 35 minutes
Sunday we checked out of our hotel and headed right back down to the waterfront to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center- a fantastic museum and cultural center dedicated to telling the story of slavery and the long road to freedom many slaves endured.
After we finished there, we headed to the northern suburbs to Blue Ash for our favorite midwestern Dim Sum at Grand Oriental Buffett where we met Kegan’s dad and stepmom for lunch.
After lunch, we headed over to the American Sign Museum- a quirky little museum dedicated to preserving nostalgic old signage from years passed.
Overall, it’s small but totally worth a stop! Tons of really cool vintage signs, with a history of each type of sign that had popularity over the years
We found ourselves with 2 hours until the Cincinnati Museum of Art closed, so we decided to trek on back downtown and see what we could squeeze in. We definitely did a speed tour and would love to spend more time there in the future.
We were surprised by the volume of works by famous artists like Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Diego Rivera, and even a couple Paul Cézanne paintings- which was cool because I did a research paper on early Cubism in college and I know that he didn’t paint a lot of paintings… he was sort of the bridge between Impressionism and Cubist modern art.
After art museum adventures, it was time for stupid purchases #3 with a trip to Jungle Jim’s for some groceries and fun international items before heading home. Jungle Jim’s is like a theme park for food. Usually, if you are looking for anything, you can find it there.
We usually look for a French cider that is very similar to one we loved in Normandy, fancy cheeses I’ve never had, some Irish staples like rashers and puddings and Swedish caviar spread for toast, along with more exotic produce like jackfruit, longan berries, trumpet mushrooms, and bok choy. This trip we had to keep it under control on fresh items because we only had three days until we are headed to Disney World! It’s a busy Spring ha.
Overall, a great weekend trip that we all enjoyed! Next trip will likely be Falls of the Ohio, Mammoth Cave and Big Bone Lick (because I have heard they have giant ground sloth fossils! Ha)